Sonic Team, It’s Time To Bring Back The Chao Gardens

When I was 18, it was in 2010 and I had yet to become a Sonic news writer. It was also the year that I got Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Gamecube. I wanted to get all the game’s emblems, only to learn that doing so meant that I had to go raise these little creatures that are called Chao, enter them in races and Karate tournaments, and get some emblems there. It didn’t take long before I discovered that raising these cute, adorable Chao is fun and addictive. Now, a decade later, I think it’s time that Sonic Team decided to bring that back.

My first ever opinion piece for Sonic Stadium is about a topic that has been discussed in the Sonic community for some time. Even in 2010, when I got to raise Chao for the first time, I remember seeing fans asking for Sonic Team to bring back the Chao Gardens. That fan demand has only gotten louder and more frequent since then, but there are two major differences.

The first is a growing community of Sonic modders. In 2011, Sonic Adventure DX arrived on Steam, and Sonic Adventure 2 Battle did the same the following year. It took a few years after their re-releases for modders to really dig into them, but since then, their modding communities have only been growing. And that growth has only been accelerating as time passed.

The second difference? SEGA themselves. They know. They’re very aware, especially in recent years, that fans want Chao Gardens back. In fact, all it takes for them to hear fans ask for Chao Gardens to return is for the Sonic PR team to make a Chao-related meme. Aaron Webber, before his promotion, has talked about it on streams in the past. And when they conducted a Twitter poll in 2018 on favorite features from Sonic games, 61.5% of the 80,500 voters picked the Chao Gardens.

Even Takashi Iizuka gets asked about the Chao often. In 2016, when asked why we don’t see Chao much anymore, he said that “Chao require very clean and pure water in order to survive, so you may not see them in a lot of places”. Iizuka had to confirm to IGN at E3 2017 that Sonic Forces specifically wouldn’t have Chao. And Iizuka has been asked about bringing Chao Gardens back. He even got to personally hear fans cheer loudly when Aaron Webber asked them at the 2016 Sonic SXSW panel if they should bring the Chao Gardens back.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that Sonic fans have wanted the return of Chao Gardens so bad that they did it themselves? Chao Resort Island’s last update released in March of this year. Meanwhile, Sonic Adventure 2 modders have been gradually bringing back all of the game’s unused Chao Garden stuff to make Chao World Extended. And there’s Chao Island, a fan site in the Sonic community dedicated to Chao that has been going for well over a decade, with arguably the most information you will ever find about Chao in one place.

So yeah, there’s a lot of fan demand for this. And I just can’t help but wonder why. Maybe they only want them to be a feature in Sonic Adventure games. Maybe it’s because they have to dedicate a portion of the developer team to Chao Gardens, as was the case in Sonic Adventure 2, and it would take too much work and resources in this day and age. Maybe they just don’t want to.

But there is hope. Iizuka has expressed interest in remaking Sonic Adventure. And the Chao, according to Iizuka in an interview last year, were his favorite playable character in Team Sonic Racing. Why? Because “it’s the first time they have been playable since Sonic Adventure 2, and personally I wanted them to show up as playable as well”. And that’s not even considering the massive fan demand that has been going on for years. And Sonic Team has had a history of considering fan feedback in their games. So it’s not like it will never happen. I think it’s possible.

So how could they do it? Remaking Sonic Adventure, if this is something Iizuka and Sonic Team really want to do, is one way. And, well, I suppose you could always go that Sonic Adventure 3 route. Better yet, just don’t have them be a Sonic Adventure-exclusive feature. It worked for the Sonic Advance games, after all. There’s even fan support for the Chao Gardens to be its own separate mobile game.

There’s definitely ways to go about doing it, it’s just Sonic Team has to, well, do it. There’s fan demand, a way to let the Sonic community know they’re listening. If it were to be a side-feature of a main Sonic game, like in the Adventure era, it adds plenty of replay-ability, something that some fans have felt has been lacking in Sonic games lately. And if they do a good quality job at it, it can sell a lot.

Despite the Adventure Chao Gardens being modded and tinkered with for years, not to mention the nearly two decades that have passed since the Chao Gardens were first introduced, there are still things we don’t know about certain aspects of raising Chao in the Adventure games. Even now, I’m still learning new things here and there about this side-feature. So, I can’t even begin to imagine how much depth that modern Chao Gardens would have. The thought of Chao Gardens running on the upcoming generation of consoles that are releasing this year, and how they’d look, it’s surreal to me.

Maybe I’m asking for too much. Sometimes, I think back to a decade ago, when I first raised Chao, and the experience was all so new to me. It still amazes me to this day how much fun and addicting it is to raise Chao. I still play Sonic Adventure 2 very often, even today, because of the Chao. But it’s not the brand new experience that it once was. I’m now a Chao-raising veteran, so there’s very little that surprises me anymore. And I’d love nothing more than for this new generation of Sonic fans and young kids to get to experience the joy of seeing their Chao grow up with them, just like I did so long ago. I really do think it’s time to bring back the Chao Gardens. I just hope that Sonic Team does too.

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SSF1991

SSF1991 has been in the Sonic community since 2008 with an unhealthy obsession with pinball, especially Spinball. Despite requests to shut up, he continues to write things anyway and tweets at https://twitter.com/SSF1991

12 Comments

  1. A Chao Garden mobile game could generate a terrifying amount of cash on ad revenue alone. Maybe SEGA is allergic to money?

  2. Couldn’t agree more with you there! I would love to see a new Chao Garden be it in a Sonic Adventure remake, in Sonic Adventure 3, in a brand new Sonic game or even as a game (or app) of it’s own.

    The only thing I would add is that I wished the new Chao Garden could be accessed through several games and not just one; maybe if it was a mobile app then newer Sonic games could be linked to it and so every ring and item you collect in games could be transferred to the Chao Garden app and vice-versa.

  3. I am huge fan of sonic games and the chao stuff was one my fav things to do when sonic adventure games first release on the dream cast. So I think saga should bring back the chao garden 😀

  4. If the Sonic adventure games get remade they need to have a transfer feature that could trade them between games and generations like Pokemon.

    1. While a great dream to bring your old friends with, I do not see this happening. Any new features would have to be strictly blocked in trading system, much like certain moves in trading between gen 1 and 2 of pokemon, which would be a drastic large addition to old mobile chao via VMU and GBA. A more practical possibility to hope for is to bring that concept back, since it was removed from the PS3 release, as an app that you can take 1 or maybe 2 of ypur chao with you to raise. I say only 1 or 2 because you could only have 1 before and much more makes it too much like a garden and thus less unique and special.
      I apologize for for the long bit but I’m very passionate about chao and have considered many possibilities and practicalities of new features.

  5. Sega is too incompetent. I don’t think that they have the ability to program the A-LIFE system needed to run the Chao garden. Remember that Yuji Naka invented a Life and he’s moved on to Square Enix.

    Sonic and NiGHTS fans, it’s time to move on. Sega is dead (ish) I love pso2 lol

  6. That Sonic Team hasn’t revisited the Chao Garden concept in years is a travesty. Surely, anything to bring it back, even a mobile game…?!
    Among other things, Chao Gardens were a great break from great breakneck gameplay. Instead of pumelling the player with non-stop action, you could relax for a while and spend the spoils and rewards of your gameplay on your little gelatin babies. Sonic Adventure 2 and the Advance games introduced that as an optional part of the gameplay loop (whereas it was an easily missed side thing in Adventure 1), and I think it’s understated what a brilliant idea it was.

    1. I play SA1 and 2 regularly just to raise them (DC, GC, and PS3 copies of both), I list raising chao as a hobby and have raised several hundred. If I were to hear of a sonic game with a chao garden (that isn’t some shoddy half built program) I would buy a new system that it is released on and preorder it. I want something new I can do with my chao army.

    1. I must be broken or something, because I never cared at all nor want any more of that stuff. The chao garden is the one reason I never managed to 100% Sonic Adventure 2, after I learned you needed the emblems from the mini games. It felt like such a departure from everything else I enjoyed about the game, it honestly boggles my mind why others enjoy it so much? Oh well, unpopular opinion I guess.

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